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Album Review

Dan Wilson: Vessels Of Wood And Earth

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Dan Wilson: Vessels Of Wood And Earth
Dan Wilson's Vessels Of Wood And Earth starts well. Just over a minute into track one, the guitarist launches into a lightning-speed solo which sounds a little like Wes Montgomery channeling Charlie Parker on speed. On track two, Stevie Wonder's well named "Bird Of Beauty," he rings the changes, exchanging Montgomery and Parker for Pat Metheny and sobriety, while pianist Christian Sands swaps his piano for a Lyle Mays-esque synthesizer program.

Unfortunately, this early promise is not sustained. As the eleven tracks progress, there is altogether too much virtuosity for its own sake and too little substance. It is frustrating, because when Wilson gets past the flash, he reveals a serious talent. His star has been rising since 2017, when he released his self-produced sophomore album, Balancing Act, and, as a member of organist Joey DeFrancesco 's quartet, was nominated for a GRAMMY Award for the album Project Freedom (Mack Avenue). The same year, Wilson began touring with bassist Christian McBride's Tip City trio. Vessels Of Wood And Earth was produced by McBride and is the second release on McBride's Brother Mister imprint.

The band is a strong one: Sands, bassist Marco Panascia and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. Singer Joy Brown, however, is a disappointment. Brown is heard on three tracks: a conflation of John Coltrane's "After The Rain" and Marvin Gaye's "Save The Children," Gaye's "Inner City Blues" and Arthur Hamilton's evergreen "Cry Me A River." The first is smaller than the sum of its considerable parts, the second is nondescript, and the third goes beyond drama into melodrama. The album closes with two Wilson / McBride duets, Metheny's "James" and Ted Daffan's "Born To Lose." Both are pleasant, neither is remarkable.

Wilson is capable of more than this. Meanwhile, jazz guitar aficonados looking for new(ish) talent are directed to two London-based players. Rob Luft's exquisite sophomore set, Life Is The Dancer (Edition, 2020) and Tom Ollendorff's equally uplifting debut album, A Song For You (Fresh Sounds, due out in May 2021), will each brighten your day immeasurably.

Track Listing

The Rhythm Section; Bird Of Beauty; The Reconstruction; Vessels Of Wood And Earth; Who Shot John; After The Rain; Inner City Blues; Juneteenth; Cry Me A River; James; Born To Lose.

Personnel

Dan Wilson: guitar, electric; Christian Sands: piano; Marco Panascia: bass; Jeff Tain Watts: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Dan Wilson: guitar; Christian Sands: piano; Macro Panascia: bass; Jeff Tain Watts: drums; Joy Brown: vocals (6, 7, 9); Christian McBride: bass (4, 8).

Album information

Title: Vessels Of Wood And Earth | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Brother Mister / Mack Avenue

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